Credit: KAWOWO SPORTS

In 2014, myself and a close colleague Elvis Senono (works with the Nation Media Group) keenly picked interest in the Uganda U-17 football team, hitherto the Cubs.

Back then, Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) registered this team for the CAF U-17 qualifiers.

CAF “A”licenced tactician Mathias Lule, working with Peter Onen were handed the mantle to handle this talented pool of players.

Some of the players on this team had the likes of Eric Kibowa, Edward Kasibante (goalkeepers), Bashir Asiku, Samuel Kato Neheyimana, Shaban Muhammed, Pius Obuya, Imran Mpaata (RIP), Hassan Ssenyonjo, Charles  Ssebutinde, Alex Komakech, Peterr Lusimbula, Walter Ochola, skippers Emmanuel Olinga, Andrew Isiagi , Julius Poloto and Frank “Zaga” Tumwesigye, among others.

Frank Zaga Tumwesigye (right) in action for Uganda U-17 against Rwanda U-17 at Namboole
Vipers’ Frank Tumwesigyei in action against BUL FC in 2017 Credit: © Kawowo Sports | JOHN BATANUDDE

For the obvious reasons, besides work related, we rarely missed a training session for this team, be it at Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium, Lugogo, Mandela National Stadium or at the FUFA Technical Center, Njeru.

From the team bonding, jolly faces of the players in the sessions, the passing techniques of the players to the silky skills showcased by these youngsters, it was all euphoric.

Every department was a red tick in the box. With either Kibowa or Kasibante, you were assured of a great performance in the goal posts.

The backline of Isiagi, Asiku, Komakech and Ochola was really solid and made minimal mistakes as they displayed solid performances at all times.

Much as the goal machines Shaban and Ssebutinde would inflict the damage to the opposition, the real gist of this team was in the midfield.

On any day, the technical team would face a healthy selection dilemma.

Frank Zaga Tumwesigye at Express Football Club

Whereas Olinga played the constant factor in the holding midfield role, the creative crop was really rich and talented.

Ssenyonjo who was then still based in Qatar with the Aspire Academy almost had a similar playing style with Tumwesigye with Obuya on the left midfield.

Every movement on and the ball, the ball passing expertise from the midfield dynamos was top notch.

Tumwesigye had the confidence to hold onto play, dribble with ease, execute fancy steps, the perfect the elastic skill on the ball, step overs as well as the eye catching no look penetrative passes were his daily meal.

By that time, Tumwesigye was a 15 year old studying at Kibuli based Kakungulu Memorial School.

He was a real marvel to watch and a typical play-maker that would make Brazilian parents envious.

For that particular U17 team, he played in 6 international matches on a high level against Seychelles, Rwanda and Zambia before narrowly bowing out to the latter team who qualified for the finals.

By and large, this was a break through moment for most of the players on this team.

A year later, Tumwesigye changed schools to St Mary’s SS Kitende at a reported record breaking “sign-on fee” and special privileges no other student at the school would get.

Two seasons ahead, he was then promoted to the Vipers Sports Club team although he rarely tasted the sweet and crucial playing time.

He got rusty as the confidence levels were really low. Consequently, Vipers loaned him to Express for the much needed playing time.

At the start of the 2019-20 season, the Venoms recalled him but still had limited minutes under his belt as they championed the Uganda Premier League for the fourth time.

Zaga, as he is fondly known by the football family had a recognizable slip in form, no doubt.

His conduct off the field of play lived a lot to be desired and besides the group of people he socialized with in Kampala and at his home area in the oil rich Hoima Municipality needed a second thought.

Frank Zaga Tumwesigye smiles

The latest decision by the Vipers Sports Club management to release him was a well thought of idea.

Tumwesigye penned a two year employment contract at Uganda Police Football Club, winners of the Uganda Premier League in 2005 and the CECAFA clubs cup a year later.

This is the life line deal to me to the player, to be fair, at least.

Frank Tumwesigye smiles as he penned the employment contract at Police Football Club

First things first. Police is managed by Abdallah Mubiru, arguably among the best coaches in the coach.

Mubiru is not only a disciplinarian, but also a keen preacher of sexy, attractive and purposeful football.

He combines patience, parental gestures and real ethics at work.

The CAF A licensed coach therefore, will bring out the real best from Tumwesigye.

This is the opportune platform for Zaga to further grow, develop and attain the confidence any player would yearn off.

It goes without a saying therefore that Tumwesigye, surrounded in a conducive playing environment that has the experienced crop of veterans Tonny Mawejje and Hood Kaweesa will be pushed to the wall to deliver the goods home.

Zaga in action for the national U-20 side Credit: File photo

This is the time for Zaga to wake up, inject extra hours of personal training, believe as well as work in liaison with the technical team and fellow players if he is to graduate to the next desired level.

Patson Daka, one of the Zambian players who played for the Junior Chipolopolo Stars against the Uganda Cubs and Zaga is already a regular on the national team as he also plies his trade in Austrian team, Red Bull Salzburg.

The other players of Zaga’s bracket as Ssenyonjo, Ssebutinde, Obuya, Komakech are also regulars in the Uganda Premier League.

With the right mentoring and sense of direction, Zaga will be reawakened to be the next play-maker to step in the shoes of Jackson “Mia-Mia” Mayanja, Sam Ssimbwa, Steven Bogere, Steven Bengo, Willy Kyambadde, Moses Waiswa and the like.

Now, half of body is colourful with beautiful Tatoos. Zaga’s silky passing and dribbling ought to be colourful as well.

After all, the natural skill is abundantly endowed. Police is the next home to provide the safe sanctuary for Zaga.

With the right frame of mind, character and belief, he will blossom once again.

Uganda U-17 vs Rwanda U-17 at Mandela National Stadium, Namboole in 2014 (Credit :NTV)

David Isabirye is a senior staff writer for Kawowo Sports where he covers most of the major events.

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